Lotus owner talks financial woes, Jerez, and Renault

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Rumors of financial collapse have continued to dog Lotus, but the team’s owner, Gerard Lopez, has tried to quash them in an interview with German publication Auto Motor und Sport.

While admitting that the investment deal with the Quantum Motorsport group was now cancelled as its money never showed up, Lopez (pictured, right, with team principal Eric Boullier) said that the team’s 2014 budget was in place thanks to the large backing of Venezuelan oil company PDVSA, which came along with Pastor Maldonado to the team upon his signing.

He also revealed that former team driver Kimi Raikkonen, now back at Ferrari, has been “partly paid” for his services and that “he will get the rest” eventually.

During last season, the former World Champion revealed that he had not received his salary and went as far to hint that he might walk out on the team; he wound up missing the last two races of 2013 but for the reason of undergoing back surgery.

As for Lotus’ absence from the upcoming preseason test at Jerez de la Frontera, Spain, Lopez insisted that the team was satisfied with the ongoing development of the E22 chassis and that being away from Jerez wouldn’t give its competition an advantage with the new V-6 turbo engines set to debut this year.

“There is also Red Bull, Toro Rosso and Caterham testing [the Renault engine], and the findings will also benefit us,” Lopez said to the German publication. “Any changes Renault makes before the Bahrain test will also be in our car…The first real test is in Bahrain. Before that, we can find more laptime in the factory.”

On that note, Lopez confirmed “we have the Renault engine” but put the lack of an official engine announcement down to complications with negotiations involving Lotus and Renault’s other F1 projects.

“…Lotus is not just a customer of Renault,” he said. “Our engineers for example have helped develop the KERS. So we have tried to agree that it is more than just an engine deal, which has delayed the negotiations somewhat.”

You’d certainly like to think that Lopez’s confirmation of a 2014 budget would ease some of the concerns surrounding his team. But between skipping Jerez and no official word on an engine (at least, for now), the chatter surrounding the future of Lotus likely will continue on through the preseason.

NHRA: John Force-like motor explosions get contagious during Sunday’s Gatornationals

Photo and video courtesy NHRA
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John Force is rubbing off on others – but probably not the way they or he would like.

The 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion has had spectacular motor explosions in each of the first three races of the new NHRA season, including during Friday’s qualifying for this weekend’s Gatornationals.

During Sunday’s quarterfinals of eliminations, Force’s teammate (and son-in-law and president of John Force Racing) Robert Hight squared off with fellow Funny Car driver Matt Hagan.

As the duo closed in on the finish line, both cars experienced spectacular motor explosions of their own – virtually side-by-side and nearly at the same time.

Hight’s car was the first to explode, tossing its body high in the air. A split-second later, Hagan’s car exploded, also sending the body flying.

Check out the NHRA video:

Hight wound up losing the race.

Hagan, meanwhile, and his crack pit crew rolled their backup car off the hauler, put in a new motor and went on to race through the semifinals and into the finals, losing to race winner “Fast Jack” Beckman.

“We had a pretty great race day, to be honest,” Hagan said. “I’ve never been to the finals in Gainesville.

“We obviously had a huge blow up in the second round, then to watch these guys pull the other car back out and put it together in the amount of time they had, then turn a win light on against Capps (Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps in the semifinals), then to be able to go to a final, it was huge and it speaks for itself.”

As for Hight, here’s his take on what happened with the motor explosion:

“I couldn’t see (Hagan) over there and it wasn’t like it was hazing the tires or anything else. As it turns out it wasn’t spinning at all. It kicked two rods out when it blacked the bearings in the crank then it hit the valves and blew up.

“The thing gave me no indication at all before that. What really scared me was once I got it under control and I look over and see his body is off his car. I am thinking ‘Oh man, he got gathered up in me.’ Then I stood up and looked and his injector was sideways so I realized he had an explosion as well. We are just lucky we didn’t get into each other.”

As for the guy who has had so much trouble in the motor department, John Force, he lost in the first round of Sunday’s eliminations to daughter Courtney Force.

John Force planned on shutting the motor off on his car at around the 700-foot mark of the 1,000-foot dragstrip, not wanting to risk another motor explosion – even though it meant a likely loss to his daughter.

Now John Force and his entire four-car team, including Courtney Force, Robert Hight and daughter and Top Fuel driver Brittany Force, will be off for extensive testing to try and determine what’s been causing the motor explosions.

“We have to evaluate it and go test,” Force said. “We’ll figure it out.”

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